After traveling 1,100 miles one-way to face two top-five teams in the nation, the Montana men's lacrosse team now know exactly where improvement needs to be heading into its home opener.
The Grizzlies fell short to fifth ranked St. John’s University 14-4 in Collegeville, MN., and dropped its second game of the weekend 20-7 to defending national champions North Dakota State in Fargo.
"What matters is how we respond as a team. I think we have a lot of fight in us and a lot of growth," head coach Tucker Sargent said. "We had a lot of individual effort, which is great, but I know we can play smarter as a team."
Goalkeeper Drew Moesel vomited in the back of the team bus five minutes before he stepped off to prepare for the matchup against St. John's. Moesel battled the flu since the start of the road trip and was found in the area outside of the dome trying to regain some electrolytes by sipping some Arctic Rush Gatorade and throwing down a Five-Hour Energy. Moesel finished with 19 saves after the loss.
"I just had to channel my inner NBA Finals game five Michael Jordan," Moesel said referring to when Jordan scored 38 points while battling the flu during the 1997 NBA Finals. "My adrenaline was going and that pushed it (the flu) to the side for the game."
Montana doesn't have a dome to practice in when the weather outside isn't friendly, unlike St. Johns and NDSU. The Grizzlies only have had about two weeks of practice on a field. However, it's more like playing on an ice rink until it becomes a little warmer in Missoula.
It's essential to have an actual field to practice key components of the game on, like clearing (transitioning from defense to offense) and picking up ground balls. The sloppiness was a result of the lack of time Montana had to prepare.
Montana attempted to clear the ball 24 times against the Bison, but only had eight successful clears. The script was flipped in terms of clearing the ball against St. John's. The Grizzlies had 15 successful clears off of 22 attempts.
"This was a big wakeup call for us," Moesel said. "I know our team is better than what we played."
The Grizzlies had a one goal deficit at the end of the first quarter against St. John's, but that slipped away as the game went on. Sean Anderson got Montana on the board first and Parker Swank followed suit shortly after. The score at halftime was 6-2 in favor of the Johnnies.
Trent Tubbs scored the lone third quarter goal and Jimmy Pierce scored the only fourth quarter goal for Montana. The Grizzlies were outscored 8-2 in the second half. Davis Wiley led the team with six ground balls. Miguel Generoso tallied two assists in the loss.
The score against NDSU may have been 12-2 at halftime, but there was one thing that Montana didn't do: The Grizzlies didn't quit.
After the St. Johns game Sargent told the team to always hold the heads high no matter how bad a loss is. Montana did just that against the Bison.
Montana came out of the half with a chip on its shoulder. The Grizzlies scored three unanswered goals to start. The team may have been significantly outscored in the first half, but was only outscored 8-5 in the second.
Six different Grizzlies scored throughout the game. Generoso led the team with two goals (one assist). Aidan Larson (one assist), Parker Swank, Travis Meyers, Tubbs and Pierce all had a tally on the score sheet. Anderson and Carson Smith both recorded an assist. Eric Mott picked up six ground balls.
Montana's now 2-2 on the season and will wrap up non-conference play host the University of Idaho on March 1 at 5 p.m. for it's home opener and the College of Idaho on March 3 at 1 p.m.
The Grizzlies will look to get redemption against the College of Idaho. The Yotes beat Montana in the conference championship game last spring.
Both games will be played at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Admission will be free for students and youth lacrosse players, otherwise tickets will cost ten dollars.
Lucas Ailport — Media Relations